A tiny collective of rural women at the southern tip of the Dead Sea in Safi is creating art that’s omni-sustainable. Since 1999, with catalytic infusions from a remarkable Canadian painter, this Jordanian sisterhood has been crafting unusual “eco” fabric items bespoke to their salty seaside village.
The locals had already established a sort of women’s group, but they lacked formal arts training. When they sought out assistance in marketing some of their handicrafts, she jumped in to help with design and promotion. It was a natural match: the start of a relationship that continues today.
Painter Jean Bradbury initially conducted classes in drawing and painting. She stressed the environmental aspects of every project, with particular emphasis on natural dye-making. Subject matter draws primarily from the extraordinary local setting and the women’s own lives.
A class instructing how to paint self-portraits eventually morphs into a production line, with some assuming designer roles, cutting up the paintings and reassembling the pieces into the oversized and strangely wonderful market bags.
“The results are bold! And we love them,” their website declares, “Each one is unique and from our hearts.”
The vibrantly colored bags are fully lined with hand-dyed cotton, stained with dyes made from pomegranate rinds, tea, rust-hued mud from Petra or yellow mud collected near Wadi Mujib where it flows into the Dead Sea.
The women add iron from the local hospital to darken or “sadden” the natural dyes: it reacts with the tannin in tea and pomegranate to create a variety of warm grays and greens.
Their gorgeously unique bags are sold through their Women’s Society store, at occasional arts and crafts exhibits, and in a new gift shop at The Lowest Museum of Earth.
An exhibit of the self-portraits is planned for late September at the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea. Contact them directly for details at +962 535 61111 or via email [email protected]
Alternatively, contact Green Prophet and we can put you in touch with the Safi women.
All images by Jean Bradbury